By RICK SOLEM
Sometimes, it looks like the first game of the season.
For the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football team, that was exactly the case - figuratively and literally.
The defense didn’t show up to start. The offense took the first quarter off and, before the Eagles knew it, they had a 21-point deficit.
That was too much to overcome Saturday. UW-L scored with 13 seconds remaining in the contest to make it a 35-24 loss to the University of Dubuque at Veterans Memorial Field.
Dubuque senior Bryan Bradshaw – a transfer from Winona State - threw for 326 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running the Eagles (0-1) no-huddle offense (not to be confused with a hurry-up offense a team runs during a two-minute drill), Houston, Minn., native Andy Sires tried to play catch up. The senior was 32-for-55 for 398 yards with three touchdowns, but also had four interceptions.
The worst of those turnovers came 3 minutes into the second quarter when Sires and his receiver didn’t appear to be on the same page. The result was a 22-yard touchdown. The only problem with that, it came from Dubuque cornerback Reggie Cole and made the score 21-0.
It was the second interception in as many drives. UW-L’s first four drives went: Four plays -punt, four plays-punt, three plays-interception and two plays-interception.
After that, the Eagles finally came to life, putting together an impressive 18-play, 75-yard drive that ate up nearly 5 minutes on the clock before halftime. It, however, stalled out on the 15-yard line with a Matt Van Druten field goal.
UW-L didn’t help its cause to start the second half, fumbling away its first possession.
The defense held, however, and Sires led his team on another impressive drive, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown to Plainview, Minn., freshman, Chase Montgomery.
It took Dubuque just three plays to answer - the last, a 40-yard TD reception.
That’s how the second half went - an “Anything you can do, I can do better,” type shootout, which is somewhat promising for the Eagles offense, which didn’t show up in the first quarter and was a bit plagued by a penalty here, a drop there or an off-target throw here and there.
Sires and the offense clicked at times, though he now has just one less interception than he had in nine games last season (5). It was, of course, obvious the Eagles were going to throw.
The running game never quite got going or really got a chance. When UW-L did run, it was either a big gain (7 or 8 yards) or no gain. Dubuque was never really worried about the run and the Eagles could not afford to burn clock trying to establish it.
Jared Stan had 13 carries for 57 yards (4.2 avg.). He also had three catches for 39 yards. Tony Favre had a 74-yard touchdown reception – part of the back-and-forth in the second half – while Jeff Haffemann had five catches for 73 yards for La Crosse.
A finger could be pointed at the defense for never getting a key stop when it needed, but turnovers don't help and Bradshaw – who could run just as well as he could pass - may be the real deal.
At Division II Winona State in 2011, in eight games, he was 64-for-101 (63 percent) for 736 yards with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. He also had 20 carries for 111 yards (4.9 avg.). He was behind starter John Teigland last year and played well the little he got in, but, apparently seeing Teigland wasn’t going anywhere – he’s this year’s starter at WSU – he transferred.
Look for the Eagles to bounce back and look a little more polished at home again Saturday against North Central (Ill.). It will be the Cardinals’ first game of the season.